Janis Joplin

I don’t find this woman particularly inspiring, I find her an interesting woman who lived in a time of great change for women.

The 1960s were a decade of revolution and change in politics, music and society. It was an era of protest. The civil rights movement had people protesting about the rights of different races. Female activists demanded more rights for women, women’s roles in society was beginning to change. Women were able to plan careers and have families when they wanted, this was the result of the pill and contraceptives being introduced.

In a post war period people all over the world started working hard and respecting the values they were brought up with. It was an era of recovery and rebuilding. During the 1960s young people started questioning such values. They protested against society and everything that was mainstream.

Social change was also reflected in the music of the decade.

The first female rock superstar and the voice of a generation, along with Jimi Hendrix was discovered at the Monterey pop festival.

She was raised in a Texas oil refinery town called Port Arthur, the eldest of three daughters raised by middle class professional parents who provided a stable, pleasant home. Her school life was the opposite she was bullied as an adolescent for wearing jeans and men’s shirts, this woman endured being called sheep and pig and voted “ugliest man” in a school awards night.

This woman veered from manic highs to depressing lows, she grasped every piece of life by the horns and tried to make it hers. This woman was insecure in herself and tried to hide behind a flamboyant exterior. She was intelligent, captivating, perceptive and expressive she had all of these wonderful qualities but would never feel anything but worthlessness. This was expressed in her destructive behaviour of extreme drug use, her signature accessory of a bottle of southern comfort and her unsafe sex experimenting with a rotating stream of men and women. All of this her family struggled to understand.

She dropped out of college and hitchhiked to San-Francisco to play at the Monterey pop festival. Where she was discovered as a musician.

This was the time of the great hippie movement. Haight-Ashbury hippie precinct that housed hippies who embraced drug use, free sex and the hippie lifestyle. Mainstream America was appalled by this lifestyle. These were lifestyle experiments, a concert called the Human Be-In was organised, and they offered free turkey sandwiches laced with LSD to the thirty thousand attendants. This experiment initially was a success but buy the end of 1967 hippie numbers had exploded and the city was suffering. The organiser’s begged “hippies” to go home.

At this point she was living on the streets as a slave to hash, amphetamines, cocaine and heroin. She neglected her music career in favour of the elusive high, she then turned to dealing in New York as a way to survive. She meet a fellow speed addict who promised to marry her and then realised she was ruining her life. This woman after her first failed attempt at fame, packed up her destructive life and headed back to Texas where she tried her hand at baking and secretarial skills, while waiting for her speed addict fiancée to come and marry her.

She was so afraid her music would ruin her again after kicking her habit and never seeing her fiancée again, that she would only sing in coffee houses. After a lot of persuasion by music industry leaders she headed back to San Francisco where her raw, loud and wild voice took her to extreme highs. She fell back into bed with women mostly, but was still looking for the man of her dreams. She also embraced her true lover’s heroin and cocaine. She was uncooperative with journalists and photographers and was known for being very real and wouldn’t put up with bullshit.

This woman played all the major rock concerts of the time including Woodstock, she also sang with the Rolling Stones at Madison Square gardens.

She had a special relationship with the Hells Angels and saw them as romantic figures who loved drugs and hated authority.

The last band that she played with was Full Tilt Boogie who she recorded “Pearl” with, the album would go on to be number one on the charts for fourteen weeks. This was 1970 and she was having the time of her life, creating the music that she loved, and was clean of heroin for 6 months.

After an argument with her mother and being told “I wish you hadn’t been born”, a physical fight with Jim Morrison from The Doors, and reconnecting with an old friend who was a heroin addict. Janice Joplin at the age of 27 was found cold and blue on her Hotel floor after a heroin overdose.

I think that for the time Joplin’s life course was extreme and while there was women experimenting in the hippie and feminist movements, it was at a much more sedate pace than Janice Joplin. She was an extremely unhappy woman in herself who tried to fix these problems with external sources. She was never going to be able to settle down in to married life with children and a mortgage.